Anne Rodriguez of Kempii tells us about waste reduction and eco-friendly products to ensure sustainability.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Anne Rodriguez: Everyone is doing fine, thanks. We’re obviously very grateful to have stayed safe and healthy during these times. Most of my family is actually in Australia, where they managed to avoid the worst of it, but they worry about me here in London.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Kempii.
Anne Rodriguez: I grew up in Australia and worked in a banking career in Melbourne and London. After a few years in the corporate world (and feeling a little jaded…), my co-founder and I decided to start a business in zero waste.
We first heard about the movement back in 2016. Initially, it seemed too difficult, but we found that just a few simple swaps could make a huge difference. We started Kempii to help others to do the same. It’s an online marketplace with tips and information on how to reduce waste and eco-friendly products to help you on your journey.
How does Kempii innovate?
Anne Rodriguez: By challenging people to rethink the way they consume. Sustainability is the buzzword in retail right now, but our aim is really to become known as a trusted brand and subject matter expert specifically in reducing waste.
We provide loads of information on our website in the most light-hearted way possible, focusing on easy sustainable swaps and encouragement rather than guilt-tripping.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Anne Rodriguez: Luckily, since Kempii is an online platform, the lockdown hasn’t really affected our website traffic. As difficult as COVID has been, we’ve tried to highlight how people can use this extra time at home to slow down and start some new habits. For example, interest in composting surged by 500% during the lockdown. Also, it’s a good time to start making DIY pantry staples like oat milk or nut butter (and avoid processed foods and packaging). Finally, since we’re mainly seeing people only on Zoom calls, you can try those tricky zero waste bathroom swaps like shampoo bars (hello greasy hair!) or learning to use a safety razor without having to worry about that upcoming social event.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Anne Rodriguez: We took the decision to structure ourselves as a marketplace, which allowed us to avoid inventory and fulfilment and focus more on branding and marketing. We also felt this would help us quickly add new UK small companies creating zero-waste products as they emerged. But this business model does mean lower margins and higher competition – so it’s important to establish your brand presence early (e.g., through social media).
Who are your competitors, and how do you plan to stay in the game?
Anne Rodriguez: Eco-friendly shopping is certainly a crowded space, with new online shops constantly emerging. We plan to stay in the game through our strong branding (we have over 64k Instagram followers), focus on reducing waste (which is continuing to gain mainstream popularity), and excellent customer and vendor relationships.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Anne Rodriguez: No. We didn’t have to, luckily.
Your final thoughts?
Anne Rodriguez: At Kempii, we hope to inspire as many people as possible to make small, sustainable swaps. In the words of Anne-Marie Bonneau (the Zero Waste Chef) – “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
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